I just got back from Algeria!
Replies: 1 - Last Post: Dec 6, 2012 4:00 PM Last Post By: laketraveller
Dec 6, 2012 3:50 PM
I just got back from Algeria!I just took a brief trip to Algeria.
What a wonderful country!
I am posting my general experience and the summary, in the hopes that some people might find the comments useful.
Visa: I got mine in Washington DC. The lady was very friendly, and I had a visa in a week with shipping times included.
Itinerary: I landed in Algiers where I spent 2 nights. Then 3 nights in Ghardaia, 1 night in Algiers, and 1 night in Constantine. Onward journey to Tunis by shared taxi.
Arrangements: I went through My Unique Holidays to arrange most of the itinerary. They did a FANTASTIC job! They cater to English speakers, and the people were very friendly. The cost was very reasonable. I normally travel independently, but it would have been difficult as I don't speak French or Arabic, and there are areas where it is simply silly not to have a guide (Ghardaia area, and Casbah area in Algiers). Originally, I was reluctant to get in touch with any tour companies, but with my itinerary, it made a lot of sense, and boy, I am VERY glad to have done it! it is www.myuniqueholidays.com, if anyone is interested.
Hotels: I stayed in ST Hotel in Algiers, Residence de Deux Tours in Ghardaia, and Hotel Cirta in Constantine. ST Hotel is new, clean, and central, and I do recommend it as a solid tourist class option. the hotel does not have a restaurant, but there actually are some restaurants in the area. Residence de Deux Tours in Ghardaia was FANTASTIC, and if it is at all in anyone's price range, I recommend it highly. Employees are VERY friendly and helpful, and the property is spotless and beautiful. I ended up eating 3 meals there every day, and the food was fantastic (and authentic Algerian!). Hotel Cirta could use renovation, but it's very grand and the atmosphere is very nice, so it's worth the money in my opinion. the location is also very good.
Internet: I did not use the internet cafes, and relied on the connections at the hotels, and I did find that to be spotty.
Sights: One day tour in Algiers of museums, Casbah, monuments, and cathedral. Casbah is definitely still an area to go with a guide or someone who knows the area VERY well. Cathedral is very unique. In retrospect, I think I would have done better to cut the modern monument on the hill and instead, go to a market or something with the guide.
I also took a day to go to Tipasa. Unless you particularly enjoy the ruins, a couple of hours is enough. However, if you like seafood, the seafood there is incredibly fresh as it is also a fishing port, and I urge you to allow time to eat seafood lunch there.
Ghardaia area needs about 2 full days. Everything shuts down in the afternoon, so if you want to do any shopping, watch for the hours. You will need a guide in that area, so work with the guide to make sure that what you are doing makes sense.
I did not have a guide in Constantine. I think walking around for 1/2 a day to enjoy the gorge and bridges, and also wondering through the market area is plenty fun.
Traveling to Tunis: I was recommended to start early from Constantine to take a shared taxi to Annaba (one seat is 300 dinar, and it seems frequent). I accidentally paid for the entire vehicle from Annaba to Tunis, and it cost me 6000 dinar, but I'm sure there was a cheaper way to do that http://lack of French.... It took about 6 hours. Border formalities took a while, and it was annoying, but nothing to worry about as long as your documents are in order. I got my bags searched. In retrospect, I should have done better homework, and possibly tried to walk across the border somewhere rather than to take the shared taxi the whole way.
Safety: never an issue on my itinerary. Everyone is friendly, and it hasn't been ruined by other tourists. My guide told me not to go to Casbah in Algiers without a guide, but other than that, I never felt unsafe.
Police: police is everywhere. As long as you don't take their photos, you're fine.
gifts and souvenirs: it's difficult to find stuff to bring back, but in Ghardaia, it's relatively easy. There seem to be a few souvenir shops on the main street of Algiers, but if you are going to Ghardaia, it's much easier to deal with. I did bring back some dates for my family and friends, and they are immensely enjoying that. It's not expensive, so I recommend that highly. You can also buy carpets in Ghardaia. Consider that folk art. I got a small rug (about the size of a large bath towel) for about $12, so it makes a good gift too!
Overall, I had a fantastic time, and I hope everyone can go. My only regret is that I did not have enough time to go see the sand dunes this time. I'll need to go back!
ps. Thanks to all those who offered me valuable advice!
Dec 6, 2012 4:00 PM
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